THE LADIES OF THE CONGREGATION
Almost every house of worship depends on the ladies to set the religious and cultural atmosphere of the physical plant. So it was in Paducah within the Jewish community.
In 1859 there were at least eleven Jewish families who were established and secure enough to feel they would likely spend the rest of their lives in Paducah. What is more natural than to wonder then where they would find their final resting place? A small parcel of land was purchased, named Chevra Yeshurum Burial Society (Poetic interpretation – “Jewish Friends”), dedicated for Jewish burial and to this day is proof that people of the Jewish faith have been a small but permanent part of Paducah history for a very long time.
Ten men ready for prayer (Minyon) meeting in private homes led to the dream of a Synagogue. A room was set aside to be used as a place of worship on the second floor over a store on 2nd and Broadway. It served this pious band and it grew in number in just a few years.
About to outgrow the upper room they dreamed again of collecting enough money to buy some piece of property close enough to walk to for sabbath service, large enough to be a home for their Torah and to serve the needs of about 30-40 people.
ENTER THE LADIES
The ladies received the request for help with excitement. So much was needed. They plotted and planned. They sold their handiwork, their culinary efforts. They earned funds as wide and varied as propriety would allow. Little by little they realized they had formed into a club … a sisterhood.
In 1871 the Orthodox congregation dedicated its first house of worship on Chestnut (south Fifth Street) between Clark and Adams, named Kelo Kodesh Bebe Yeshurum Synagogue. It cost $2,500.00 and was the pride and joy of the women of the congregation as well as the men. Rev. Leon Leopold was asked to be their leader. Although he was not an ordained Rabbi, he was very dedicated to his religion, highly educated and most respected in the community.
This house of worship was soon too small as more Jewish families were emigrating down the water ways and away from the Eastern seaboard cities. Committees were formed to solicit funds to build a larger Temple.
ENTER THE LADIES AGAIN
The ladies wanted to help. And again they met the challenge by giving of their talents and energies. Two women sold chances on a diamond ring that had been given for that purpose. Others presented musicals, gave book reviews and underwrote gracious Silver Teas. Some cooked and baked their way towards a new building.
Property on 7th and Broadway was purchased. An impressive Synagogue was designed by architect Brinton B. Davis, of Byzantine style, at a cost of $30,000.00. It was dedicated in 1893 as Temple Israel, a Reform Congregation and a charter member of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The walk from 5th and Adams to the new Temple was indeed grand. Officers of the Board of Directors carried the Torahs and the children of the members scattered flower petals in front of the procession as proud parents and fellow congregants followed. This new Temple would seat 320 individuals at prayer. Surely it would last forever.
Meanwhile the women who had worked so hard had become a more organized group and grew in numbers. By 1914 they called themselves “Sisterhood” and had joined the newly organized Federation of Temple Sisterhoods. They took on the obligations of the national organization and continued their local obligations to community, religious life, and family. They supplied the Jewish children their religious school needs. They underwrote many day to day expenses of the physical plant. By 1924 there were 70 paid members of Temple Israel Sisterhood.
As time and circumstances would have it, the Temple on 7th and Broadway became a problem. The building needed monumental repairs and the congregation did not grow to the anticipated size. The social hall and the religious school were much too small and the sanctuary was much too large. One year the Passover meal was served to a few members sitting on the stairwell of the social hall for there was not space enough to feed 100 people in the social hall. There were more than 40 children in the religious school.
Committees were formed. A small band of concerned congregants rose to this challenge. The search party suggested building on 28th and Monroe. An architect was commissioned to create a house of worship worthy of the community.
ENTER THE LADIES
Sisterhood pledged itself to underwrite the cost of furnishing the complete kitchen and all food service equipment as well as finishing the Auditorium. The members formed “Sisterhood New Building Fund.” The public got behind this building project and supported every effort presented so that not one failed to be successful.
A poplular singing artist who had ties to Paducah donated her road show before a sell-out audience, public dinners were well attended, bake sales and rummage sales, catering services offered private and church dinners and there were outright donations from private citizens of the community. Without these loving friends and neighbors of Temple Israel, the members could not have reached their goal in such a short time. Meanwhile, all other activities continued… the Holiday meals, Oneg Shabbat (welcoming the Sabbath) pot-luck dinners, monthly meals for Men’s Club-B’nai B’rith and Sisterhood. Donations to Jewish charities and local charities, new projects were adopted and the non-Jewish community gave the membership courage and support.
On April 7, 1963 the Torahs were carried into their new home. The Everlasting Light was softly glowing, the Yarti’zite lights (memorial lights) connected those in attendance with their past and the toast of “L’chayim” (to life) connected them with a future.
Now, after almost 140 years of continuous service, Temple Israel’s congregation has reason to be proud of and has supported Temple Israel Sisterhood these many years.
Information gathered from books by Dr. Robertson, Mr. Fairhurst, Mr. Biernheim, and multitudes of old papers found in the Temple Israel unfinished balcony before the building on 7th and Broadway was demolished. (p.s.: and a lot of memories)
More information to come!!!! if you have have any questions about the sisterhood please email Dr Ballew at firstname.lastname@example.org